The Importance of Secure Software Development

Published on: September 22,2020 Published in: Insights Software

recent UK government survey found that 32% of businesses fell victim to a cybersecurity breach. The average cost was £4,180 in 2019 and £3,160 in 2018. Yet less than a third have carried out a software risk assessment in the past year.

The reason for a number of these successful attacks? A lack of secure software development.

The digital landscape is growing but software implementation of security standards is not. Developers often ignore security guidelines which can lead to dire consequences.

This article examines the importance of developing secure software.

We explore what secure application development is. How building on a shaky foundation can impact a business. And we share some best practices that all software developers should follow.

Read on to see how poor software security may lose companies money. But by using secure application development could help them increase their bottom line.

What Is Secure Software Development?

There’s an old joke about the insecurity of previous versions of Microsoft Windows.

In an expo, Bill Gates attacks General Motors, saying they should have followed Microsoft’s way in creating technology. GM responds that if they did their cars would crash twice a day. And their airbags would ask ‘are you sure?’ before deploying.

Thankfully, Windows security has improved a lot over the years but many other systems have not.

When scanning third-party software, a top security firm found that 85% of all apps had at least one vulnerability. Part of the reason was a failure to implement a secure software development lifecycle.

But what does that mean?

Secure Software Development Life Cycle

A secure SDLC is a framework that dictates how applications should be built with security considered from the outset and throughout.

Common frameworks include the NIST SSDF, Microsoft SDL and SANS SDL. They help speed up development time but retain important security practices. The common theme is continual testing and identifying potential threats.

Being secure by design is far from a bolt-on added just before deployment.

Security best practices form the core of every line of code written. It involves constant scanning and monitoring to discover new vulnerabilities. And it sees timely reviews to flag potential issues.

Important Security Standards

The tech industry employs several standards to ensure security compliance. The top standards include ISO 27001, CIS, PCI DSS, and OWASP.

ISO 27001

ISO 27001 or ISO/IEC 27001:2013 is a specification for information security management systems (ISMS).

It aims to help organisations manage their data security by including people and processes with technology. The independently accredited certificate is recognised as the best in class standard for manging security risks and opportunities.

Payment Card Industry (PCI)

Companies that use payment cards must conform to PCI DSS regulations.

The aim of PCI is to help merchants and financial bodies include security policies that protect their payment systems and data. They also wish to help software developers understand and implement secure payment solutions.

Security professionals measure an application’s performance against these and other guidelines.

Regular risk assessments ensure that the software adheres to recognised standards. It also means that applications remain secure over time and not just during development.

Application Security Risks

Security risks cover a broad spectrum. The Open Web Application Security Project or OWASP helps to identify the main sources. Some of the top offenders include:

  • Broken authentication
  • Sensitive data exposure
  • Misconfiguration of security
  • Insufficient logging/monitoring

One common theme of exploiting insecure software stems from a lack of testing and monitoring.

Automated and manual reviews play an essential role in patching newly discovered vulnerabilities. OWASP states that the average time to detect a breach is over two-hundred days. And more often than not they’re discovered by third-parties rather than through an internal process.

Testing and ongoing monitoring are only a few best practices for secure application development. What others exist and how effective are they?

Best Practices for Developing Secure Software

Secure applications should conform to a set of recognised best practises. We’ve highlighted the top three below.

1. Implementing a Secure Workflow brings businesses and experts together to create effective software security programs.

Their guidelines help establish security fundamentals including a secure workflow. The 5 steps include:

  1. Identifying risks, threats, and compliance issues
  2. Identifying appropriate security requirements
  3. Communicating those requirements to the appropriate teams
  4. Validating they have been implemented
  5. Continual auditing to demonstrate compliance

Defining software security controls begins before the design stage. It continues throughout the application’s lifecycle and responds to changing threats and requirements.

2. Ensure Compliance

Businesses face an ever-increasing list of statutory, regulatory, and legal compliance obligations.

In the UK they include NIS Directive, ePrivacy Regulation, etc. gives a list of common compliance requirements including the GDPR.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies to any organisation that processes EU residents personal data. It works alongside the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA) which deals with privacy regulations in the UK.

Failure to ensure an application is secure and any resultant data breach could levy a fine of up to 4% of annual global turnover.

3. Tracking Through Implementation and Verification

Every identified security requirement needs tracking through implementation and verification. That means using a development lifecycle management system rather than doing it in an ad-hoc way.

Like all systems, there should be a recognised input > process > output.

Inputs include secure design principles, coding principles, and legal requirements. Processing occurs within Application Security Control management. The resulting outputs are implementation and validation tasks and audit artefacts.

UK-Based Cyber Security and Data Protection Consultancy

Secure software development should lie at the heart of all applications. But they don’t. And the result is data breaches, development re-work, and hefty fines.

How can a company be sure their applications are kept secure both now and in the future?

i3Secure helps businesses prepare, protect, detect, and respond to software security issues.

We know that cyber-security and app development has a major impact on how a business works and is perceived. One data breach can ruin a brand and lead to financial penalties. However, embracing secure development can provide real business benefit.

Using our expert knowledge in secure application development will protect a business and drive its growth. We are fully versed in regulatory compliance. And we can even help bring cost efficiencies through automation and optimisation.

Contact our team today to see how i3Secure can help you.

Keep secure. Keep compliant. Keep developing

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